What are the biggest obstacles to ending homelessness in Jeffco? I think that centers around cost-of-living. I saw a homeless guy at 52nd and Wadsworth and his sign said, “It’s so hard to get up …
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What are the biggest obstacles to ending homelessness in Jeffco?
I think that centers around cost-of-living. I saw a homeless guy at 52nd and Wadsworth and his sign said, “It’s so hard to get up from here.” And that resonated with me. Even if this guy gets a job, most likely at minimum wage, how in the Metro Area do you make it on minimum wage. When you see apartment going for $2,000-$3,000 a month. That guy said it perfectly. It’s so difficult. And I think this cost-of-living situation in our city makes it 10-times worse.
What is the one type of resource that is most lacking in helping the homeless?
Officers told me that besides housing, that facilities to help with substance abuse are the most needed. Men on the streets want help for their addiction. It’s starting at the base and getting help for substance abuse. They don’t have money for private treatment, they don’t have health insurance and many facilities don’t take people with a criminal history.
What is making the homeless situation worse?
Cost of housing. Period. Clearly that is an economic trend not good for the average Joe or someone who is trying to start their lives over from the streets.
What still needs to be done?
That’s the million dollar question. So much. The problem is getting exponentially worse. All the programs I’ve been involved in, I don’t think they’ve put a dent in the problem. For law enforcement what we see is cities pushing people on to other cities. The homeless sweep in Denver a couple year ago pushed people into the suburbs. We are not fixing anything. We just move the problem. At the end of the day everyone is looking for an answer, but it’s not going to be one city or county to come up with a solution. It has to be a collective force that comes up with amazing ideas.
What do you wish more people knew about the situation?
Homelessness is not a crime. I can’t tell you how many calls the police department fields from average citizens reporting a homeless person or panhandler. But that’s not illegal in Arvada or most of the metro area. They can be on the side of the street. And people are outraged. I remind them these are human beings. It is not illegal for them to stand on the street corner. I think there is this huge education piece lacking.
What is the best way to make an impact on the problem?
Having wraparound services. That’s not a new idea, we just need to be better at it. If we are going to help get them housing, we need to help with employment. It’s not just getting them in an apartment. Denver has gotten pretty good about providing supports for mental health, substance abuse and employment. They check in with them keeping this constant wraparound service with these people.
— Shanna Fortier
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